THE MURDER OF THE GENIE

in memoriam: Rene Magritte (1898-1967)



Deep scar, the ash-white day
brands itself on lavender walls.
The gulls strike deep
in crane territory.
A clock ticks in a robot's head,
mindful of its destiny.

The fan spins till the breeze begins
to slap the blinds. In the squeeze between
iris and lid, the window feels
the first stir of unrest.
Who let the assassin spirit in?
Who armed him, who bailed him out?

He must have rehearsed his catgut lines
before putting on his ski-mask,
turning the doorknob.
An inkpot drops in a sailor's head,
a letter comes to rest
in the cradle.

The mullions framing the gantry
ten miles away by skiff
are phantoms of mutiny
but don't show it.
They hold their dignified pose.
Nothing connects.

A parrot ransoms the clock for a song.
They repeat each other faithfully, translate
as two chiming alibis.
The curtains shush the piercing needle
of the chime; the flash-gun springs
from behind a wrinkled tiger mask.

The curtains catch fire
even as the grammarian gropes
for crucial evidence, signs of a struggle
in the thick undergrowth of prescribed tropes
and the flowering false pretences
of language.

In the tanglewood, I leave a few odd cinders,
the spoor of a maple, the trace of a tune,
an eyeful of pale water,
my guillotined feet.
Draw and quarter fact.
Fight clues with clues.

This wisdom shall be proverbial
in the room's unforgiving folklore.

by Ranjit Hoskote

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